LAST NIGHT

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The Independent Culture
Time was when the television companies competed to provide that little extra for the punters come Bank Holiday. A smidge of Disney, maybe; a feature-length drama with David Jason and John Thaw; a special edition of Top of the Pops. The assumption was that the average citizen lacked the gumption to get through three days' leisure time without fisticuffs, and that the programmers had some responsibility for preventing too many murders.

Not any more. The closest thing to Bank Holiday programming yesterday came in the form of Change Your Life Forever (ITV), which went out live some time after this page went to bed. Possibly this was intentional, possibly not, but as it featured Anthea Turner, the reviewer's nemesis, and Anthea was joined in her dissection of other people's ambitions by Zoe Ball and Sue Cook, there is room for speculation. I certainly found myself heaving a heartfelt sigh of relief at such a narrow squeak.

The rest was the usual seen-before-on-aeroplanes movies, predictable drama and - to appeal to the broader spectrum - snooker. And then, at the incomprehensible hour of 12.55am, came the gem of the evening: Unplugged - Oasis (BBC1). True, the brothers Gallagher are almost as ubiquitous on our screens as the aforementioned Anthea, but their appearances are more rewarding. This segment of the sold-on MTV series, a masterclass for the nation's buskers, only featured Gallagher Minimus fleetingly, wearing a flowerpot hat, swigging beer, wreathed in cigarette smoke and proving that a man can still keep himself nice in spite of razor-blade shortages, with Patsy looking pasty by his side. "Liam ent gonna be with us tonight," intoned Gallagher Minor, "because he's got a sore throat. So you're stuck with the ugly folk."

He then sat down, in one of the ugliest shirts ever nicked from the Arndale Centre, and launched into "Hello". He remained completely still throughout the performance and kept his eyes fixed firmly on his knees, forming a stark contrast with his brother, whose stage antics usually consist of standing completely still and staring at a fixed spot in the air just in front of him. The cameras, working overtime to make up for the fact that an acoustic performance, however riveting it might be musically, is usually less than mesmerising visually, zoomed in and out, darting to the ceiling and to the back of the auditorium like a pack of midges. Irritating as this was, at least it provided relief from the monotony of the lighting, which consisted of a handful of pale blue uplighters and a pattern of blue and red on the floor. The audience at the Royal Festival Hall, most recently the scene of the Labour Party party, applauded on cue and left room for the black-clad orchestra - brass, strings and a dolly on the piano - to do their South Bank thing. You longed for Liam to throw something.

There is no doubt that Noel is a genius, but his performance made one appreciate the contribution Liam makes to the band. Noel has a good voice: bang on note, capable of gentleness and violence all in one phrase; a little reedy at times, but basically competent. What it lacks is the strident ugliness of Liam's vocal range. This ugliness is one of Oasis's great assets: not only is it ideally suited to banging on about drug culture, it can also turn itself to a romanticism in ballads like "Wonderwall" which many a sweeter voice will never achieve.

Enough of the flowerpot man. The camera, lingering on Noel's visage, revealed details of his physical makeup. During "Some Might Say", he looked up a couple of times. His eyes remained unfocused. Either he had undergone hypnosis for stage fright, or there had been cups of tea circulating backstage. The lights picked up the gap between his front teeth, a characteristic he shares with David Mellor and the Wife of Bath. Those eyebrows, close up, look painted, and the skin has always had a plasticky sheen. It was while he belted out a peerless version of "Morning Glory", a song I had previously considered unimprovable, though, that I realised what Noel has reminded me of all along. Remember the Mr Potato Head character in Toy Story?

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